Saturday, August 24, 2013

Oil, lemons and bread

It's not often that one comes out of church with their hands smelling lemony fresh unless one has been using a Lemony-Fresh washing up liquid following post-Mass tea and fellowship. However, today, my hands certainly were not smelling of the usual vague traces of Rosa Mystica and burnt finger from fumbling with the thurible.

As the bishop anointed my hands today with the Holy Oil, he cleansed them with lemon juice and mopped them with bread before purging them with water. Of course, there are practical reasons for doing so, especially when one is about to distribute the Holy Sacrament. However, it put me very much in mind of the fact that I have to be of service to my parish, even down to the washing up with Lemon-Fresh washing up liquid, and making sandwiches for hungry mouths.

Admittedly, for someone who is rather inept when it comes to practical things, the commission to serve is very daunting. There is so much need in the world, and in the most unexpected places. St Augustine would tell us that Evil is a privation - Evil only exists as a lack of Good. So there is a true need where evil exists and evil takes so many forms. Our Lord Jesus came to supply whatever we human beings lacked in order to become the people we were meant to be. He came to perfect people. Even Our Lord was not truly perfect until He had fulfilled what He had come to do. He was, of course, absolutely sinless, but no human being is perfect until they have become the person that God intended them to be.

To perfect people, Our Lord got His hands dirty with mud and spittle. He touched running sores, atrophied tongues, stopped ears and bloody wounds. He  washed dirty feet and held the dead. His was a life of trying to make people perfect and then those hands were cut open and stained with his own blood when he died to open the gates of Heaven so that those corrupted by sin might find perfection in Him. If His earthly ministry to us were with us here and now, we would find his hands in the sink, washing up for an elderly lady, or making sandwiches for a picnic for children from the estate, or mopping the brow of a patient in her agony in the hospital, and he would be consecrating every action.

However, this is the ministry that He has passed on to all His followers, including without any exception His priests. Indeed, the priest who doesn't serve is endangering his own soul by not seeking his own perfection in Christ. This of course is a very frightening thought, but we can all be assured that with His grace we can truly serve if we serve with humility and love.

A priest's hands should always be lemony-fresh from doing life's washing up in the Hospital for Sinners that the Church is meant to be.

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